Duterte ignores criticisms against anti-hoodlum unit

Calling some of the NGOS as "groups that just make money and show up at the spotlight only when there are bloody incidents," Duterte asked them instead to explain to youth offenders their crime.

He said these non-government organizations should “encourage them [youth offenders] to do right” and not just agitate the situation.

Without naming names, he called these NGOs "groups who have taken positions consistently against the government."

Not all of the NGOs, however, show up only to agitate the situation, Duterte clarified Sunday.

The mayor denied accusations the unit is targeting the youth itself. He said its task is to deal with youth offenders many of whom are "criminally insane."

He also warned the groups not to encourage suspected youth offenders to file charges against policemen who arrest them. He said they should help the government rehabilitate the children by coordinating with the city social welfare office.

The Kabiba Alliance of Children's Concerns in Mindanao, Children's Rehabilitation Center Southern Mindanao, Tambayan Center for the Care of Abused Children, Karapatan Task Force Women and Children and the Kabataan Consortium, has voiced their opposition to the new police unit. They said, however, that they are willing to work with the city government in curbing juvenile delinquency.

Last month, children's rights advocates proposed a summit on juvenile justice and invited the city government to it.

In an earlier report, the groups linked the unit to the Human Security Act (HSA), allegedly because it conducts profiling, labeling and surveillance of individuals and groups tagged as hoodlums.

Duterte said the new police unit will be operational in time for the Kadayawan Festival this month but that the purchase of protective gears for them was still pending.

He announced the purchase abroad of bullet proof vests and shot guns for the unit.

But he clarified the use of short-range rifle is meant only to incapacitate those in conflict with the law. He said the vest is intended to protect policemen from offenders who shoot back with their ‘sumpak’ or home-made handgun.      

Duterte has spoken harshly against youth offenders, especially with the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Law which prohibits jailing minors. 

He has ordered the police to nab youth offenders and require them to produce certification from the barangay government that they are minors.

He has used airtime and newspaper space to lambaste the law's author Sen. Francis Pangilinan  

The mayor spent most of the one-hour city government television program "Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa" (From the masses, to the masses) Sunday criticizing the NGOs over the noise they created on the police unit's name. 

He insisted there are enough mechanisms to keep children away from crimes such as compulsory elementary and high school education. He said they have also engaged in counseling where they advised the parents to send their children to school. 

He cited that children who refused to go to school will be considered juvenile delinquents.  

The issue surfaced in June when Duterte first floated the creation of the anti-hoodlum unit amid pronouncements in his inaugural speech on June 30 that he will put children close to his government thrusts. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)